Belden Ag-Grid is Ag-Grid Energy’s second operating anaerobic digester in Massachusetts. Belden Farm recently built a modern barn with three robotic milking systems, which increased the farm’s efficiency and sustainability. The farm’s owners were honored as a 2022 Massachusetts Sustainable Business of the Year for their new barn and their anaerobic digester.
Ag-Grid Energy partnered with Luther Belden Inc. and Tapan Mallik to form the special-purpose entity Belden Ag-Grid to construct, own and operate an anaerobic digester.
This project was funded through member equity, NRCS EQIP grant, MassCEC Organics to Energy Program grant, Eversource Energy Efficiency grant and Farm Credit East as lending partner.
Luther Belden Inc. is owned by Darryl and Lucinda Williams and their son Jackson. They are 12th- and 13th-generation members of the family that has been farming on the same land since 1661. Darryl and Jackson are primarily responsible for daily operations. All three owners are strongly committed to sustainability practices in general, and this renewable energy venture, specifically.
- FOOD WASTE – Liquid food waste brought to the facility goes directly into the digester. We added a slurry storage tank to allow storage of food waste per requirements of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Total food waste used is 5,000 gallo0ns per day.
- MANURE – The digester recycles 25-30 tons of cow manure per day.
- ENERGY – The digester’s 300 kW engine generates 2.5 million kW hours of clean, renewable energy per year.
About the Farm
Belden Farm has 180 milking cows, raises another 150 replacement cows in all growth stages and maintains a small beef herd. A portion of the corn, hay and alfalfa they grow is sometimes sold to other farmers in need. The family also operates the Belden Farmstand selling cuts of beef and pork.
Impact on the Community and the Environment
Town of Hatfield is our host municipality, as we receive net metering credits from public institutions. Two other municipalities in western Massachusetts also are participating in net metering credits generated by Belden Ag-Grid. Local food producers have a trusted disposal site for recycling waste.
The renewable electricity from this project supports 400 electric vehicles on the road and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from those vehicles.
What Our Farm Partner Says
Milk prices are very volatile, they always have been. It seems to be getting worse. Dairy farmers are kind of struggling. Anything we can do to help sustain ourselves and sustain our land, to keep open spaces and productive farmland, is a good thing.
What the Ag-Grid Team Says
We started our second dairy digester project at Belden Farm. For Ag-Grid Energy, this project was a demonstration of feasibility for an anaerobic digester at a small dairy. More than that, it was a collaboration with a progressive farm that has a carbon footprint mindset and converted to a robotic dairy barn with state-of-the-art energy efficiency. The project has shown that a digester is a wonderful fit for smaller dairy farms.